Each winter, Acme Packing Company breaks down the Green Bay Packers’ roster from the previous year by position to examine the team’s performance and needs in the offseason. We continue with a look at the outside linebackers.
In 2019, the Packers made massive changes at the outside linebacker position. Longtime veterans Clay Matthews and Nick Perry departed — one for his hometown of Los Angeles and the other headed out of football entirely — and in came a new batch of players, both young and old(er).
But one edge rusher remained over the offseason to contribute to the pass rush, a holdover from one of Ted Thompson’s final drafts who was coming off a season with some gaudy sack numbers. With that player’s production in advanced metrics remaining relatively modest in 2019, he seems likely to get a change of scenery in the coming months.
NFL Experience: 4 years
Free Agent Status: Unrestricted
Expiring Contract: 4 years, $3.136 million total
Four years ago, the Packers surprisingly drafted an older outside linebacker in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Kyler Fackrell seemed a bit of an odd fit as a true 3-4 edge rusher, but eventually he settled into a rotational role in his second season.
While Fackrell totaled five sacks in his first two years combined, he seemingly broke out in 2018, recording 10.5 sacks while playing about 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. His production came amid Clay Matthews’ and Nick Perry’s final campaigns in green and gold; Clay recorded a scant 3.5 sacks in 16 games, while Perry posted just 1.5 in nine contests.
What those sack numbers hid, however, was Fackrell’s modest overall quarterback pressure numbers. According to Pro Football Focus’ numbers, he put up just 18 total pressures in 2018 in 623 plays, affecting the quarterback on just under 2.9 percent of his overall snaps. In 2019, Fackrell’s pressure rate was almost identical, with 12 total pressures on 415 snaps coming out a few hundredths of a percent higher. However, his sack total dropped from 10.5 to just one, illustrating the unsustainability of that 2018 total.
(By comparison, Preston Smith’s pressure rate in 2019 was 3.9%, while Za’Darius Smith’s was 5.7%.)
With those numbers in mind, it would appear likely that the Packers allow Fackrell to walk in free agency, especially given the recent investments the team has made on the edge. The Smiths represent a major financial investment, as the two 2019 free agent signings will account for a combined $30.75 million salary cap hit in 2020. Rashan Gary then accounts for the major draft capital, as the team selected him with the 12th overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
That likely squeezes Fackrell out of town come March, especially given the Packers’ needs at other positions. Unless he is willing to take a very modest deal to return to Green Bay, look for Fackrell to move on to another team, perhaps even a 4-3 team where he can utilize his skills more in coverage than he did with the Packers.